A new study puts a rest to the tired claim that electric vehicles are not much cleaner than internal combustion engines. During the life cycle of an electric car – from digging the materials needed for construction to eventually spreading the car – it releases less greenhouse gas emissions than a gas-powered car. This is true globally, whether EV is connected to the power grid In Europe the share of renewable energy sources or a network that continues to support India heavily on carbon.
This should come as no big surprise. Fossil fuels are driving the climate crisis. So governments In California that European Union have proposed the phasing out of internal combustion engines by 2035. But there are still people who claim that electric cars are only as clean as the networks they use – and currently fossil fuels still dominate the energy mix in most places.
“We have a lot of lobby work in parts of the automotive industry saying that electric vehicles are not so much better when it comes to power generation and battery production. We wanted to investigate this and see if these claims are true,” said Georg Bieker, a researcher at the International Clean Transport Council’s (ICCT) non-profit in the research group that published report. The ICCT analysis found that these allegations are not true over time.
The report estimates emissions from medium – sized electric cars registered in 2021 in either India, China, the United States or Europe – countries that account for 70 percent of new car sales worldwide and represent other markets worldwide, the ICCT says. Lifetime emissions from electric cars in Europe are 66-69% lower than those from a gas-screaming vehicle, an analysis found. In the United States, the electric car produces 60 to 68 percent less emissions. In China, which uses more carbon, EV emits 37 to 45 percent less. In India, it is 19 to 34 percent lower.
It is important to note that the study assumes that the vehicle was registered in 2021 and has been on the road for about 18 years. The authors of the study arrived at different potential emission reductions for each region by looking at the current policy mix of energy sources as well as the International Energy Agency’s forecasts of what the future electricity mix will look like as climate policy evolves. But it’s hard to predict how much the world’s energy infrastructure will actually change. In the United States, for example, President Joe Biden has set a goal of 100 percent clean electricity by 2035 – but it still has to follow practices for that to happen. The study also does not take into account other climate-related issues the environmental impact that car construction can have, for example, from mining and waste.
Building an EV is still a little much more intense than building a traditional vehicle. Recycle EV batteries could eventually bring the carbon intensity down. But so far, EV drivers are starting to benefit from the climate after driving their car for about a year, according to Bieker. That’s when a car crosses the threshold when the emissions saved by cleaner electricity make it a better alternative to the climate than a traditional car.
Bieker hopes the ICCT’s findings will help policymakers make more informed decisions about the future of transportation. Climate experts are rushing to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions almost zero by the middle of the century to avoid the worst effects of global warming. Electric vehicles are necessary to make these cuts, and even hybrid electric vehicles are not clean enough to achieve the goal. The report recommends allowing new internal combustion engines on the road by 2030.
“Combustion-powered vehicles are unable to achieve the greenhouse gas emissions we have to live with climate change,” Bieker says. “It’s a global observation, so we need to eliminate cars with internal combustion engines globally.”